Etsy Journal

Explore ideas and inspiration for creative living

Featured Shop: The Letter Loft

by Jackie Buddie

Jun 19, 2017

After a series of business flops, this designer teamed up with her dad to create the successful home and event venture of her dreams.

Photo by: Simon Wild

After 20 years (and perhaps as many false starts), British designer Jodie Bond is the owner of successful home and event decor shop The Letter Loft. However, Jodie’s journey to get here was a long one. “I’d wanted to work for myself, so I tried painting, being a holistic practitioner, even selling cleaning products door-to-door,” she says. In 2012, after creating the perfect set of mossy “Mr. and Mrs.” table toppers for her wedding, Jodie saw yet another career opportunity: selling moss letters. Six months later a business was born, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Constructing moss letters proved difficult, and a short-lived attempt at outsourcing bulk letter frames to China didn’t sit right with Jodie. Feeling frustrated, she turned to her dad, Robert, a retired electrician living in Spain. “I told him, ‘It’s not working, I think I’m going to have to pull the plug,'” she recalls. “And he said, ‘Well, let me have a go.’ In 2015, Robert officially joined the The Letter Loft team, and today the company has a beautiful new headquarters to its name. But there’s still one thing Jodie doesn’t have: a business card. “I promised myself I wouldn’t print another business card until I was a success,” she says. “In the past, I’d get really excited, print loads of business cards and then before I even had a sale, I’d change my mind.” With the help of her dad—and a beautiful collection of bespoke wire letters and cake toppers—the duo have shaped The Letter Loft into the business of Jodie's dreams. Read on to learn how this father-daughter team found their groove making industrial-botanical decor, and shop the collection.

When your father joined The Letter Loft, he lived nearly 1,000 miles away. Logistically, how did you manage?
Until eight months ago, I was running the business 50% from Spain, 50% from England. My dad would make a huge batch of letters and post them to England, and I would finish them off with coloring, mossing, and packaging. But now that my parents moved back to England, we actually just bought a house together—me and my husband, Mum and Dad. Now Dad and I have workshops right next to each other—a his and hers.
Your business is truly a family affair. Was it easy figuring out how to divide the workload?
My auntie Debbie crochets the letter cushions, my mum helps with packaging. But mostly it’s me and Dad. You have to respect the different roles you play. I started the business first and then Dad came on board and we established our roles from the get-go. So I’m the owner, and we consider him a sort of contractor, and that arrangement works really nicely for us.
Photo by Yeshen Venema.

Can you describe your workflow?
Dad makes all our wire products out of stainless steel. For the cake toppers, he’ll write out a word—like you would with a pen, but using a hand-held tool. And for the letters, he bends wire around wooden boards to get the shape he wants. When he turns the wire over to me, it’s bare with welding burn marks, so then I powder coat it and bake it in the oven for about ten minutes. The paint melts onto the wire and leaves a beautiful finish. If I’m doing a moss letter, I’ll stuff the wire frame with dried sphagnum moss, which is long-lasting. At first it’s really big and fluffy, so I press it and mold it into shape, and then I cotton it all tight. Once they’re made they’re really sturdy.
What’s one of the greatest challenges you face as a small business owner?
Comparing yourself to others. Especially in the world of social media, you see all these successful businesses that seem to churn out amazing idea after amazing idea. Everything looks perfect and it seems like everyone’s day is butterflies and rainbows. But it’s important not to judge your shop based on what everybody else is doing. You have to recognize your own skills and strengths, find your niche and evolve within it.
Photo by Yeshen Venema.

What would you say has become the defining feature of your products?
They’re top quality from the inside out. Most moss letters on the market are wood or foam underneath, and a lot of cake toppers and wire letters are either aluminum or copper, which can easily bend. But stainless steel is tough, which makes our letters a nice keepsake. The powder coating is also really durable, unlike spray paint, which chips easily.
How do you put a price on quality?
I had an email from a customer who said, “I want to order this, but you’re 10 pounds more expensive than anyone else.” A year ago, I probably would’ve felt I needed to apologize and desperately try to match prices, but I’ve come to recognize that we’re not like those other people because we don’t have machinery and we’re not mass producing. Everything is handmade by either myself, my auntie, or my dad. And I value our time and my business for that.

Photo by Yeshen Venema.
The handwriting for your cake toppers is so joyful. How did you come up with your style?
In the first year, Dad was obsessed with fonts. If I visited him in Spain he’d point at a sign and say, “Ooh! Look at that A!” He was learning what letters flowed well together and would try to recreate the more old-fashioned fonts. But writing in wire is different than writing in pen; where one letter would join up nicely if you wrote it, in wire it would look awkward. So he gradually just evolved his own style with little loops to hide behind the letter so it flows easier. I also came up with a more modern handwriting that we use for the “Yay” cake topper, for example, which is probably our bestseller.
What’s the best part about working with your dad?
He really is so good at what he does. I try to remember to tell him, “This is amazing what you’re creating.” Every time I have an idea for a product, he always makes it exactly like what’s in my mind. Our creative vision is very similar. On a personal level, my parents lived abroad for fifteen years, so to actually have him here is really nice. To spend time with your dad every day—not everybody gets that opportunity.
What have you learned about yourselves through your business partnership?
His love of perfection has definitely rubbed off on me. For instance, originally my packaging was fine, but now I add touches like petals, stickers, and a little thank you note. We agree that it isn’t just about the product, it’s about the entire customer experience. And although this is a business and it supports us financially, it’s so much more than that to us. We’re passionate about it, and we do it because we love it. Follow The Letter Loft on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. Photographs by Simon Wild unless otherwise noted.

Shop The Letter Loft

Jackie Buddie image
Jackie Buddie

Jackie Buddie is a writer and wilderness explorer working full-time as a content producer at Etsy HQ in Brooklyn.